Remember this year for Advent, we are talking about the Fruit of the Spirit as told in Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things.” Over the last two weeks, we have talked about patience, kindness, faithfulness, and goodness. This week, we want to speak about self-control and gentleness.
Self-control means being able to control our behavior, emotions, and desires – something that may be especially hard this time of year because we are all anxious for Christmas to come and this pandemic to be over. We tend to be materialistic and self-indulgent this time of year – that is we think mostly about the presents we want and what we want to do instead of remembering the real reason we celebrate Christmas (Christ’s birth) and remembering others. It may be hard, but that is what God wants us to do. We need to practice self-control by trying to practice all the fruits of the spirit we’ve talked about so far and the ones we’ll talk about next week to finish our study. It is often difficult to be patient and kind to our family or friends; it’s hard to remember to stay faithful to our Lord and be good to others now too. But that’s where self-control comes into the picture; we must practice these things even when we don’t feel like doing them or acting that way. We can all do that with God’s help if we ask Him.
God demonstrated self-control throughout the Bible and luckily for us, He still demonstrates self-control with us as well. How many times did the people in the Bible stray from God, but He always forgave them and brought them back into His fold? How many times do we make mistakes every day, but when we ask God to forgive us and help us do better, He does just that? Think about God’s self-control and what a loving and forgiving God we have to do that over and over and over. Those two things alone show us God’s grace and mercy for each of us, not just at Christmas but every day of every season.
Then let’s think about gentleness. God sent Jesus to be born in gentleness in that stable in Bethlehem. Even though it is not what we would consider a perfect birth place, the whole atmosphere of that night was one of a gentle and loving birth with His mother and earthly father Joseph along with the animals and shepherds who followed the star to worship Baby Jesus.
As Jesus became an adult, our Savior certainly displayed gentleness with everyone He met while He was on earth too. He was kind, healed the sick, raised the dead, and preached salvation to all He met no matter what their position was in life. Even as He was persecuted and hung on the cross, He was gentle and forgiving to those who hated Him. Matthew 11: 29 says, “Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit.” May we also practice being gentle with ourselves and others as we prepare for Christmas. Everything does not have to be perfect to celebrate Christ’s birth. The first Christmas was very simple, so there’s nothing wrong with a simple and gentle Christmas now.
May we remember these two ways of acting this coming week along with the others we have talked about so far. Let’s try to show self-control in our actions and speech. Let’s try to be gentle to others and show them compassion and love. This is a hard time of year for many people, especially this year because they are afraid about COVID. You may be afraid too. Ask God to help us to believe and behave how He would want us to do. Being gentle and having self-control will help us all have a better Advent.
Let’s say a prayer to ask God to do just that. Father God, this is a hard time to wait for Your birth. We are so excited to get to Christmas with all the fun, food, and presents. This year is especially hard too because of the COVID virus around us. Help us to trust in You, be gentle to others, and practice self-control by being patient, kind, faithful, and good. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.